Calum Ferguson will admit it’s a bit of a quirky story. And, as is the case with any good tale, it needs a little background to be properly understood and then told.
So, here goes…
Ferguson arrived in Winnipeg on Sunday to join Valour FC’s training camp, now a week old. He’s a 24-year-old forward who was born and bred in Scotland, holds Scottish-Canadian citizenship – his mom is from Toronto – and who has represented Canada internationally as a member of the U18 and U20 national teams.
And here’s the quirky part: until he touched down in Halifax eight days ago before heading west to Winnipeg, Ferguson – with 11 appearances for Canada internationally – had never actually stepped foot on Canadian soil.
“It’s funny, isn’t it? I used to say to Rob Gale (who coached both national teams), ‘You need to do something in Canada so that I can actually go there.’” said Ferguson with a chuckle after Monday morning’s Valour FC session.
“The camps I went to were always in America or Jamaica or Guatemala or something. My buddies say it all the time to me, ‘You’re a phoney! You’re a fraud!’ So, I get a lot of stick for that. They’d always rip me when I’d go away with the national team with a bit of banter about that and the Scottish accent.”
Ferguson has done some research on his Canadian heritage and that, in part, was part of the allure of the Canadian Premier League and Valour FC. Like many Canadians of Scottish heritage, his mother’s family came across the ocean from Scotland generations ago. Her family moved back to Scotland after she was born and she married a Scot.
But he does have a connection to Winnipeg.
“Some of my family left Scotland at the same time a lot of people did on ships that came across to Halifax, to Newfoundland and then shipped across the country on trains. And Winnipeg was one of the places that my mom’s grandfather’s brother got out at. He got on a farm here, learned his trade here, worked his way up and then off he went. Winnipeg has a sentimental connection to my family in that way.
“He was a bard, so he wrote Gaelic poems. He wrote one about starting out here that had the line ‘Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee) on the Prairie.’ That’s my connection to here. I’m just glad Rob gave me the opportunity to come out and hopefully impress.”
Ferguson potentially gives Valour FC some different options up front. He began as a youth in the ranks of Inverness Caledonian Thistle and has experience with Montrose, Albion Rovers and Elgin City. But back problems have plagued him the last few years, before he had surgery to deal with the issue.
“He’s a different option for us as a centre forward with only Tyler (Attardo) here now and no Stephen (Hoyle, who arrives in a few weeks),” explained Gale. “He’s got terrific movement, a little explosive power. Stephen Hart (of the Halifax Wanderers) had offered to have a look at him as well as we wanted to make sure he had a couple of options with the expense of the trip across. It turns out Steve is looking at more of a winger and we’re still looking at an attacking piece. He’s come on to us to see how he fits in with the culture and the lads.”
Make no mistake, Ferguson is here to land work with Valour FC. But there’s also the fascination of being part of a start-up league like the CPL while finding his game again. Couple that with the desire to discover his Canadian roots and it’s all part of what makes his story so fascinating.
“I’m trying to grab my chance here,” said Ferguson. “I want to stay here. I want to play here. I want to do something fresh and something new and that’s the plan behind it all. But being here is also a part of my life, hearing about a lot with all these stories from my family. That’s another reason why I was desperate to come out here, to meet my family out here, reconnect with them and discover that part of my life that I never had the opportunity to do.
“That’s the beauty of this country, isn’t it? It’s got that connection to lots of different cultures. For me, this is all going to be an adventure. I’m proud of it. I’m proud that I’ve got Canadian family and Scottish family as well.”
Notes and quotes from Monday’s Valour FC training camp…
Calum Ferguson wasn’t the only new face at Valour FC camp on Monday. Winnipegger Kyle Hiebert, who plays for Missouri State, is working with the team this week, while Valour’s two U Sports draft picks – Jack Simpson and Lewis White from Cape Breton University – have left. Three others have also exited in Eli Roubous, Mat Santos and Yvenson Andre.
“It’s a little bit of injury and a little bit of what we know is coming (including Stephen Hoyle and Martin Arguinarena). We don’t want to just keep players here for the sake of it,” said Valour FC GM and head coach Rob Gale. “We want them all competing for the spots that are available. With the attacking needs that are still up for grabs that’s why Federico (Pena), Calum and Mitch (Popadynetz) are all still here competing.”
Gale said he hopes to always have room for development contracts with players from WSA Winnipeg and other locals, even as the season progresses.
“It keeps the guys on their toes, it keeps them fresh,” he said. “We need to make sure we keep and eye on work-to-rest ratios we’ve talked about, the repetitions. That’s why it’s very important for Syvatik (Artemenko) to be here along with the two signed goalies, so that he can take some of that load of them. Also, we want him imbedded in the values and culture of the club and the training and methodology, so that if they do step in – maybe it’s not this season, maybe it’s at the end of this season, maybe its next year – they’re already assimilated and ready to go.”